Normal Aging vs Dementia

We’ve all had those awkward moments when we can’t remember a word, or when we spot someone familiar but can’t put a name to the face. As our loved ones age, we may notice this type of thing happening more frequently, and we may worry that it’s more than just age-related memory loss. So, how can you tell the difference between normal aging and dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Many people think that Alzheimer’s disease is synonymous with dementia, but it’s actually one type of dementia. There are several others including Lewy body, Parkinson’s, Vascular and Frontotemporal, just to name a few.

As the baby boomer generation ages, there is a lot more focus on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. While this information is helpful, it is good to remember that 40% of people 65 and older experience some form of memory loss, which is considered a normal part of the aging process.

Differences between memory loss and dimentia

What are the key differences between normal age-related memory loss and dementia?

​Here are some differences noted by the Alzheimer Society of Canada:

  1. Not remembering details of a conversation or an event that took place a year ago is normal, not being able to recall very recent details is not.
  2. Forgetting the name of an acquaintance is normal, not recognizing or knowing names of family members could indicate dementia.
  3. If a loved one has an occasional lapse of memory regarding a thing or event, that is normal. If this happens frequently, it may be cause for concern.
  4. We all have trouble finding words occasionally, but frequent pauses and word substitutions is not normal.
  5. If your loved one is worried about their memory, but you aren’t noticing major problems, this is most likely age-related memory loss. If you are seeing issues, but your loved one is not aware of a problem, there may be an issue.

If you are concerned, please talk to your doctor. It is wise to get all the information you can, even if the memory issues are just age-related.

Diagnosis of Dimentia

If a loved one receives a diagnosis of dementia, there is hope—and help. The Retreat at Sunny Vista’s innovative Rhythms Dementia approach centers on each person’s natural rhythm of life and adapting to that. We also strive to educate everyone who is living with dementia, including families and communities, so that they feel supported and can support others on the dementia journey. Find more helpful information here.

Learn more about our communication strategies for people with Dimentia.

See our PDF about 8 tips for communicating with a loved one who has dimentia.

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